Wonderful Whatcom

Of water and poetry

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It’s winter in Whatcom County, cold and dark, and a perfect time for curling up in front of the fire to daydream and read. Make plans for getting kayaks out in a few months, clamming and crabbing, or just being outside enjoying our spectacular shoreline.

Two recent books celebrate Whatcom County, one telling the life story of the Salish Sea and the creatures that inhabit it, and the other stories of 101 of its human inhabitants, lyrically told in the locally published collection of poems titled Noisy Water.

The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest is a publishing collaboration between Cloud Ridge Naturalists and the SeaDoc Society, a science-based marine conservation program located on Orcas Island. Know someone who is new to Whatcom County? The Salish Sea provides a great overview of our animal cohabitants and a solid understanding of the dynamics of this ecosystem, and is full of fascinating facts.

Who are the deepest divers in this sea? Northern elephant seals can dive to a depth of 5,692.3 feet (yes, that is more than a mile)! Salish Sea fish species are known for their longevity—rougheye rockfish can live to be more than 200 years old, which would mean they might have been born when James Madison was president.

Urban whales who share coastal waters with noisy ships have adapted to the increased volume much the way humans do—they talk louder, holding syllables longer and increasing the amplitude of their vocalizations.

With every page studded with stunning photographs, this book is perfect for simply curling up and looking at the pictures. Bonus that the informative text by Audrey DeLella Benedict is parsed out in easy-to-ingest sections, science made interesting and relevant. Zoology, botany, past and present geology, anthropology, and issues related to the region’s economy are covered, with the emphasis always on species interdependency and teaching about the importance of keeping this ecosystem healthy for all its inhabitants.

The title of the poetry anthology, Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington, is derived from the translation of the Lummi word Xwot’qom, from which “Whatcom” is derived, loosely translated as “noisy water.”

Although poets were not asked to submit poetry on a specific theme, there is a natural tendency in each of these poems to lean toward woods, water, rock, trees—the elements that are so much part of our existence here in Whatcom County.

The 101 poets were invited to submit poems based either on their publishing accomplishments or for their presence and involvement in the local poetry community. The editors of the collection, local poets Luther Allen and J.I. Kleinberg, hope the book will represent the strong and growing poetry community in the county.

With one poem by each poet, the many styles and voices make it another fun armchair read, and chances are you will recognize a name or two.

As the Collection Support Manager for Whatcom County Library System, Lisa Gresham enjoys selecting materials like these to support reading for pleasure and learning.

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